Mike Delli Santi was raised in the inner-city projects of Newark, New Jersey.
One of seven children, Mike grew up admittedly poor. Over the years, though, he has risen above and overcome his humble beginnings. "I saw my father struggle to support seven kids, and I decided at a very young age that I didn't want to struggle like that," says Mike. So he learned a trade (three, actually) and worked his way up to starting his own construction company.
Along the way, though, Mike developed a love for racing. In 1971, he started racing his '63 Pontiac Catalina in Super Stock. Through the '70s, he raced a few different cars, the last being a '72 Dodge Charger with a 440. He even had a '70 Mach 1 351C in the mid-'70s but never raced it.
By 1980, Mike stopped racing to start a family with his wife, Marcy. Somehow, in 1990, Mike found his way back to the track with a big-block '70 Charger. With the addition of another child, though, Mike had to lay off racing again. Meanwhile, he was gaining knowledge and experience in the construction field that would later pay off greatly.
By September 11, 2001, when tragedy struck very close to home for Mike (Newark is just across the Hudson River from New York City), he was just forming his new family business. Having earned licenses in electrical, HVAC, and plumbing, along with 25 years of experience, Mike had everything he needed to be successful on his own.
The company thrived, and by 2007, Mike was ready to get back in the racing game. All of his kids were grown and living on their own, so he bought this '07 Mustang GT/CS. Along the way, Mike met Jim D'Amore of JDM Engineering.
"If I hadn't hooked up with [Jim], I might not have started this project," says Mike. "The JDM team made the transition from old-school racer to high-tech easy for me."
D'Amore and the JDM team have performed all of the work on Mike's car, and Mike competes in NMRA's JDM Engineering Super Stang class. His best e.t. to date has been 9.70 at 142 mph. Pumping out 658 rwhp and 630 lb-ft of torque, Mike's California Special is far from where it was four years ago when Mike bought it new off the showroom floor.
The engine has seen a complete rebuild, including a forged stroker crankshaft and JDM-spec Manley rods and pistons. JDM CNC-ported the heads, complete with oversized Manley valves, and installed a pair of custom-grind Comp Cams camshafts. Atop the Three-Valve sits a Saleen Speedlab Super Shaker blower, pumping 16 psi of compressed air into the 298ci powerplant.
Mike opted for a TCI Super StreetFighter 5R55S in place of the stock piece, complete with a Precision 2,400-stall converter. An Axle Exchange aluminum driveshaft runs through a Metco safety loop, and connects to the 8.8-inch rearend housing a Detroit TrueTrac differential, 4.10 gears, and Moser axles. BMR Fabrication A-arms and removal of the sway bar are the only modifications to the front suspension, while QA1 adjustable shocks, Metco lower control arms, and a BMR sway bar hold up the rear.
Mike's long road to success hasn't been easy, but hard work and a positive attitude have paid off. "Running in the NMRA allows me to travel more around the country," Mike tells us. He also doesn't plan on retiring from racing any time soon: "I plan to stay with racing this time until they pry my old, dead fingers from the wheel."
Mike truly is living the American dream.